I took a place for Tommy's, the baby charity, last year and began training. It was stressful and I didn't enjoy it one bit. Getting my strength and fitness back after two pregnancies and births in quick succession, getting my confidence back, and finding the time to rack up the miles felt like another chore on the list, another thing making life difficult.
So I deferred my place to 2015. As luck would have it my lovely friend Kerry Bircher from Revolution Cycling came to me with an absolutely brilliant training programme with a fantastic bunch of women, and so my fate for 2015 was sealed. I was Riding London, and Noel signed up to join me and help raise more cash for Tommy's.
Training was tough but brought huge victories for me, mastering cleats at last, the first time I rode more than 50 miles, the last long ride I did before RideLondon when I breezed down to my parents house via a roundabout route of about 55 miles barely breaking a sweat. Getting to know the amazing women I rode with every month and watching us all progress and become stronger, faster and fitter.
Perhaps because I had built the ride up so much in my head I was pretty nervous all Saturday, and on Sunday morning as Noel and I lined up with the dawn, I was excited but fearful. Fear has been a real theme for me this year, and it was there on Sunday. I was afraid for Noel, who had a stomach bug and was unsure if he could go the distance. I was afraid for myself, unsure if I could really get round the course in the time allowed.
We didn't get the chance to find out, as my phone battery packed in and my Strava with it, and we were delayed for a very long time at Leith Hill and for shorter periods through Dorking and at Headley. By the time we were able to pick up the pace again, just outside Esher, we were pretty well rested from a slow, stop-start 30 miles or so. The final 20 miles flew by. Noel nearly vomited as we approached the Mall (gels + protein bars + stomach bug = not comfortable) but the utterly epic finish proved the best medicine of all and we finished, as we rode, strong and together. Holding hands, actually. Why not eh?
Riding 100 miles with my best friend, having raised a four-figure sum of money for an amazing charity, is hard to beat. I will not forget it in a hurry and having shared the experience with Noel makes it truly special.
I also want to say a huge THANK YOU to every single person who cheered us on. The streets of London, Dorking and Kingston were lined with noisy, enthusiastic spectators and cheering squads from all the major charities, and it made all the difference. Most of the quiet country roads were full of spectators camped out to enjoy the show, and their support really lifted all of us. It was unforgettable.
Noel pointed out it's probably the most time we've spent together without children since we first had them. I certainly can't remember feeling closer or more connected to him. Although I'm sure he could have ridden the course much faster even with an upset stomach, the fact that he stayed by my side the entire way round means more to me than I can put into words.
Our page is still open if you would like to sponsor us and help us raise even more for Tommy's.